Member profile: Global Interagency Security Forum (GISF)

Lisa Reilly, GISF Executive Director, Acceptance Strategies.jpg

H2H Network member GISF (Global Interagency Security Forum) is an NGO-led peer network of over 130 international NGOs, established in 2006. GISF supports NGOs to promote safe humanitarian operations and facilitate access for crisis-affected communities by providing original research, events, and a platform for organisations to share their experiences, knowledge, and best practice on humanitarian security risk management (SRM).

Poor SRM is a key challenge to sustainable access and programme delivery in humanitarian contexts. Recognising this, the network was established by security focal points for security focal points to enable collaboration across the wider humanitarian sector, to share information, and to promote improvements and best practice in SRM.

GISF joined the H2H network in 2019. In keeping with the H2H agenda, GISF seeks to expand and collaborate with NGOs across the globe, taking an inclusive and global approach to SRM. GISF shares the goal and commitment of H2H and its members to support and strengthen sector-wide collaboration.

Security is not an isolated issue

Security always has been, and remains, an obstacle to accessing crisis affected communities. With 214 major attacks against aid workers, and 399 cases of kidnappings, wounding and fatalities in 2021, the need to protect aid workers is as prevalent now as ever (Aid Worker Security Database, 2022).

Historically across the sector, many can recall a time where few organisations dedicated resources to security, and SRM is often seen as a barrier, rather than as an enabler of safe and sustainable access to communities. To address this, GISF has been working to break down silos within the sector, to ensure that SRM is and becomes understood as an enabler of operations, rather than a restrictor. GISF encourages approaches to SRM that are not risk-averse but instead raises awareness of good practice, while providing organisations with the tools to manage risks.

Security is everyone’s responsibility in an organisation and only when we understand that, we will be able to keep all humanitarian staff safe. “As a member organisation we sometimes face the challenge of engaging with the wider humanitarian sector to understand the role they have to play. Security impacts the whole team and programmes at hand, therefore, it is essential to share our message and resources with a wider-range of humanitarian actors. Access to networks such as H2H helps us to achieve this to connect and work together with key stakeholders.” (Heather Hughes, Deputy Director at GISF).

As with many H2H members, GISF has recognised the complexity of measuring the precise impact of its work on humanitarian security and safety. Much of its work is focused on improving practice to prevent, and better manage, security incidents. GISF’s annual forums, however, provide an opportunity for members to engage in deeper discussion and learnings on critical topics related to SRM, and to provide qualitative feedback on events, tools, and resources they find most useful. Critically, GISF is breaking down silos by bringing together expertise from a variety of networks and sectors, to strengthen collective practices regarding SRM.

GISF’s collaborative expertise is presented in many ways including original research reports and guides; capacity strengthening workshops and events; the GISF website, library, and chat; and participation in a wide range of thematic and sectoral events, meetings, networks and groups, such as Saving Lives Together (SLT), and Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW).

Local Action: SRM in NGO Partnerships

“Particularly national NGOs and staff are exposed to security risks, and we remain deeply committed to advancing research, tools and workshops for local and international NGOs in partnerships to achieve equitable risk sharing in NGO partnerships and enable more locally-led response.” (Chiara Jancke, Research Advisor at GISF).

Building on our innovative research paper ‘Partnerships and Security Risk Management: from a local partners perspective’, GISF has developed a ‘Joint Action Guide for local and international organisations’ to better collaborate on SRM. The guide includes various practical tools and guidance on improving partnerships’ structure and promoting an equitable, transparent, and mutually beneficial approach to SRM within partnerships.


GISF creates a platform for NGO security focal points around the world to exchange information and identifies best practices in its pioneering research related to humanitarian access and SRM. In December 2021, GISF released ‘Achieving Safe Operations Through Acceptance’. This collection of articles features different perspectives and experiences regarding opportunities and challenges for acceptance in humanitarian operations, including the impact of digital risks, counter-terrorism legislation, and humanitarian negotiations on acceptance.

Security in a Digital World

In 2022, we will be exploring across our events and research the implications, risks and opportunities that new technologies bring to the sector, and particularly humanitarian SRM. GISF strives to make resources accessible to a wide range of humanitarian actors and has recently developed a security toolbox to advance best practice in the sector. The digital toolbox, released later this year, offers easy to understand and access NGO security resources, tools, and templates for humanitarian actors. If you would like to contribute to our continuing work on security in a digital world, please contact

Race and SRM

“GISF’s upcoming article on race, ethnicity, and nationality (REN) and SRM draws on the experiences of aid workers and security managers to explore the impact of REN on aid worker security, operations and organisations, and how to work towards inclusive and equitable security practices.” (Tara Arthur, Project and Membership Officer North America, GISF).

The continued growth in GISF membership, and participation of members and other stakeholders across the wide range of our activities, demonstrates GISF’s strengths in terms of influence on operational practices in SRM and its meaningful contribution to improving humanitarian access. Providing a trusted network within its membership and to the broader humanitarian community, networks such as H2H and GISF encourage information-sharing and contribute to the development and dissemination of good practice in the sector.

To stay up to date with GISF, you can subscribe to our newsletter, here, and follow us on Twitter and Linkedin. Please get in touch with to learn more about GISFs work.

(Photo: Lisa Reilly, Executive Director GISF, Acceptance Strategies).